City of Craig proposes to take on funding for Museum of Northwest Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

City of Craig proposes to take on funding for Museum of Northwest Colorado

An antique carriage is among the many historic pieces at Museum of Northwest Colorado. The City of Craig discussed this week the possibility of taking on annual funding for the museum.
Andy Bockelman

The City of Craig, Moffat County, and the Museum of Northwest Colorado may have found a way to save the city’s historic museum.

During the city’s Oct. 22 budget workshop, council members paved the way towards adding the museum as a city entity. Instead of the city funding $150,000 equally to the museum and the library as the county proposed, the city agreed to designate the full $300,000 toward the museum with the understanding that the city will immediately begin exploring the feasibility of adding the museum under the city’s umbrella.

“Right now, we’re just brainstorming it,” Councilman Tony Bohrer said. “I think people have jumped to the conclusion that this is set in stone, but we’re just looking at the possibilities for the best way forward for the museum.”

In May, the city of Craig and Moffat County initiated a discussion to jointly fund Craig’s historic Museum of Northwest Colorado and the community’s libraries. In that discussion, which came about due to cut funds by the county in 2018 and 2019, County Commissioner Ray Beck met with Councilor Chris Nichols and then-councilor Brian MacKenzie, along with other city and county staff, to explore what a city-county partnership would look like in regard to keeping the community’s libraries and museum open.

Now, it appears as though the city will take over full control of the historic museum, should the proposal move forward.

Vintage saddles and firearms are among the inventory at Museum of Northwest Colorado.
Andy Bockelman

“It makes sense that in order to responsibly spend city funds that we need oversight on how those funds are utilized,” Bohrer added. “Acquiring the museum not only fits our vision for our community, it allows our funds to receive our direction and oversight.”

While the funds were agreed upon during Tuesday’s budget workshop, the numerous details of such a transition is still in the early phases of discussion. That said, the county believes that such a move for the museum is worth serious consideration.

“This has the potential to be positive for all the entities involved,” Beck said. “Not only would it shore up funding for the museum going forward, it frees up county funds while allowing the city to utilize one of the most effective assets within city limits.”

“Better yet, this transition could occur with no additional taxes on our citizens,” Beck added.

Knowing funding will be there, should the proposal go through, is a relief to Museum of Northwest Colorado Assistant Director Paul Knowles.

“First and foremost, there’s comfort that the conversations have been moved on from, ‘will we be funded this year?’ to at least we know we have this funding shored up,” Knowles said. “Past that, it comes down to what’s best for the museum. It’s always a good thing knowing the discussions have happened and there’s a desire to keep the museum open and a staple in the community.”

The entrance of Museum of Northwest Colorado welcomes visitors.
Andy Bockelman

One reason the city proposed adding the museum as an entity is thanks to museum’s role in the continued downtown revitalization.

“The city views the museum as a vital institution in our community and we want to ensure it remains that way,” Craig Mayor Jarrod Ogden said. “We also view them as a key element in our plans to revitalize downtown, while also introducing thousands of potential businesses and residents to our community every year.”

The full $300,000 funding would be a major addition for the museum, which has seen its budget cut in back-to-back years. The funding from the city would allow the museum to get back to its nationally recognized quality.

“In the last few years we really haven’t been able to put together many exhibits and really dig deep into the research aspect for this area,” Knowles said. “We became a nationally recognized museum due to our quality and in-depth research, so this change will allow us to get back to that level, which will be great for the community.”